Professor Patty Ferguson-Bohnee has released the article, The History of Indian Voting Rights in Arizona: Overcoming Decades of Voter Suppression, to SSRN.
Native Americans “have experienced a long history of disenfranchisement as a matter of law and of practice.” This comes from a complicated and contradictory history of laws and policy that has recognized tribes as separate sovereigns, reduced tribal status to that of domestic dependent nations, sought to remove, relocate, or assimilate tribal citizens, terminated numerous indigenous nations, and has now moved to a policy of tribal self-government. Unfortunately, the right to vote for Arizona’s first people has only recently been achieved, and there are continuing threats to the electoral franchise.
Voter suppression has been used to discourage or prevent Indian people from voting in Arizona. Voter qualifications such as literacy tests were used to prevent Indians from participating in elections for approximately fifty years. Once Native Americans started voting, redistricting and vote dilution were used to reduce the effectiveness of the Native vote.
This article will review the history of Indian voting rights in Arizona. The author begins by reviewing the history of Native American voting rights and the history of voting discrimination against Native Americans in Arizona. The Voting Rights Act turned the corner for Native people to participate in the state and federal election processes. The article then discusses the current challenges faced by Native American voters and specifically discuss the voter ID law passed in 2004. The voter ID law is a roadblock that impedes full participation by all Arizona Indians. The last part of the article focuses on strategies to protect Indian voting rights. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the Section 5 coverage formula in Shelby County, tribes should consider proactive measures to ensure that tribal citizens can participate in elections.